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#2081187 - 05/12/13 03:54 AM The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 2089
Loc: Suffolk, England
People refer to some pianos produced at the end of the 19c as "late romantic". How did the development of the modern piano affect the performance and sound of piano music during the 20c?


Edited by Withindale (05/12/13 06:30 AM)
Edit Reason: Title
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Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2081235 - 05/12/13 07:45 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9398
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Wow!

This is a subject that many of us could write about for many hours. In fact, the subject of 19th c. performance practices has so much active research going on about it presently, it is truly mind blowing.

Frankly, I am not an expert on the subject, but I know some here are, so I will keep my comments brief and limited to the instrument itself.

The "modern piano" evolved in two ways. First, the action definitely improved. Repetition and balance opened the palatte that a musician could use to achieve their art. Second, the modern piano became capable of a larger bolder sound. This sound allowed this instrument to be used in large halls accompanied by large orchestras.

But that had a downside as well. Some of the sound that was explored by so many 19th c. composers who wrote character pieces for piano was more difficult to find in these new instruments. The contrast and sweetness that made some of the most beautiful romantic music that was written to be played at small salon gatherings was lost when it was played on a "modern piano" in front of a larger audience.

I am looking forward to watching this thread develop. This will be a good one!
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
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#2081312 - 05/12/13 10:38 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Rotom Offline
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Registered: 12/24/10
Posts: 1670
It should be an interesting thread indeed. I've found, not really having done research in the topic specifically, but by listening and playing many works across this period, the style of writing has leaned towards the technical, abstract style of modern classical music, as opposed to the warmer, more expressive, style of Chopin. It could be that Liszt, who demanded much in his pianos so that they could stand up to his playing, started the ball rolling towards faster development of the piano.

As time goes on, the piano's sound has very much resembled today's. As the piano improved structurally and in terms of dynamics, so did the music. Composers seemed to be pretty keen exploring the boundaries of sound with the piano, as composers like Prokofiev (just one example that comes to mind).

Having played recently a very modern work (Sonata (1990), 1st Movement, Carl Vine), it shows that that type of music would simply not have worked at all on a so-called "romantic" period piano. One can still make beautiful sounds with the modern piano playing romantic period repertoire. But it does not sound the same, and the techniques used can be very different, in regards to pedaling, and the length of sustain on the pianos then and now, for example.

^Above is just my theories. May or not be correct, but it's what I've noticed.
--------------

As a player that tries to be as accurate as possible in terms of colour and control, I sometimes find it excruciatingly difficult to produce the right sounds on a modern piano, as opposed to an older instrument. The action, how it feels, and the sound and sustain, are all different, thus, the forces and pedaling techniques are different to compensate. The one differences that strikes me most is the almost complete lack of tonal variation from register to register on the modern piano, where most of us try to find pianos that are completely even in tone from top to bottom. In a period instrument, there is a great variation from top to bottom, and it adds interest to the music to no end when you can use these colours to your advantage.

Edit: I find that it is this freedom and variation is what makes the music work. Quite possibly, because the modern piano is so sensitive, it shows up everything you're doing wrong more clearly, and much more care is needed. On older pianos, the keys seem to go down more easily, and the tone is less harsh and percussive, albeit with a decreased dynamic range. It could easily be this feature that was exploited by the composers in that time, with beautiful, soaring melodies on a piano less percussive and loud, that make it easier to play. It is hard to explain, but intuitive for me (and other pianists presumably).

There is certainly much to write here, as I'd also be interested in what others have to say here. I'd love to into greater detail on my own experiences on this topic, I just need to find some time to do so... So much to say, it would definitely take hours...


Edited by Rotom (05/12/13 10:44 AM)
Edit Reason: addition of more text

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#2081344 - 05/12/13 11:31 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Rich Galassini]
jim ialeggio Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 746
Loc: shirley, MA
Originally Posted By: Rich Galassini
The "modern piano" evolved in two ways. First, the action definitely improved. Repetition and balance opened the palatte that a musician could use to achieve their art.

Its hard look at previous ways of doing things without looking at it from a modern bias. Improved is a relative term, in my opinion...maybe different would be a better term.

If you look at some of the repertoire for earlier pianos, for example Schubert, and look at the nature of the compositions, one can easily see how pre-Erard actions made huge sense. For instance, in Schubert, the cascades of arpeggios...though Schubert is earlier than the Victorian aesthetic the OP might be talking about.

Actions & arpeggios: I'm thinking of one instrument from the Fredrick Collection, Trondlein (1820) (which I love,and has been the source of much inspiration in my own piano thinking). I call it the Schubert piano whenever I see it, as it suites song so well and is my favorite instrument in the collection.

Physically this instrument's action makes total sense in performing the arpeggios which underlie all of the Schubert repertoire. The dip is way less than a modern instrument, 1/4" total instead of 3/8"+ for a modern action. Hammer mass tiny in relation to modern hammers, inertia extremely, extremely low by modern standards. Because of the tiny dip & minisucle inertia, very little finger movement is required to create the arpeggio. Instead, the arpeggio is rolled...the wrist is rolled, the fingers do not need to individually fully extend into each note of the arpeggio. The technique is easier and more sustainable for ordinary mortals, and lends itself to faster tempos than the modern setup will allow. Relatively speaking,the technique is more of a gross motor skill (rolling wrist) rather than a fine motor skill(individually extended and retracted fingers).

Tonally the differentiation between registers is very clear. The uniform full compass sound of the modern piano differs significantly from this variegated tonal palette. As well, since the sustain levels of this instrument are so low, again relative to the modern piano, the differentiation of registers becomes easily perceived, allowing thicker textures to retain the feeling of an ensemble rather than a singular source of musical sound.

I heard Beethoven opus 110 on this instrument, and it completely blew me away. (Bass strings are plain wire brass to the bottom by the way,at least on this baby). For years I have experienced late Beethoven as its own musical era...the guy was somewhere utterly unique and amazing. But, I have also found the texture so thick as to wonder whether in his deafness, his hearing was way beyond the reality of the instrument. That is until I heard op 110 on this piano. The differentiation and short sustain was such that every part of the fugue sang as if it were part of an ensemble rather than a singular piano(ist). Clarity out of that density...yeah! A density of texture which on the modern piano seems only possible for technical wizards and outliers, singing so clearly on an appropriate instrument played by good but not wizard technique, making the music sing in away I never experienced it before.

These pre-Veinnese pianos speak to me. Perhaps some else has some knowledge about the mid-century offerings.

One other thing, though the sound pressure produced by these instruments is much less than the modern piano, in a decent sized concert venue, the experience of volume was totally appropriate to the venue. At the key board,the sound level experienced by the pianist is significanlty reduced from what we "expect" to experience, but in the audience the sound level is, to my ears, completely appropriate and thankfully not so "in your face" as a modern piano tends to be.

Jim Ialeggio
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#2081415 - 05/12/13 02:32 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Lluís Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/09
Posts: 313
Loc: Barcelona,Spain, European Unio...
I'm happy that this thread is getting popularity in this forums. Too much to discover about the fortepiano... Specialy from brands like Graf, Pleyel, Erard, Broadwood etc...
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1942 Challen Baby Grand Piano

1855 Pleyel Pianino (Restoring -> www.pleyelrestoration.blogspot.com )

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#2081439 - 05/12/13 03:42 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: Withindale
People refer to some pianos produced at the end of the 19c as "late romantic". How did the development of the modern piano affect the performance and sound of piano music during the 20c?

When someone says late 19c pianos, I am thinking 1885 - 1900, not 1820s, 40s or 60s.

I think pianos which were modern and had advanced designs in 1890 were very much different that what had been produced 30 years earlier, but not that different from what was produced 30 years later. In other words, the big sweeping changes came earlier, before the late 19th century.
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#2081451 - 05/12/13 04:31 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Supply]
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 2089
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: Supply
When someone says late 19c pianos, I am thinking 1885 - 1900

Well, I think we can go back to about 1875 when Steinway, Ibach and others were developing those pianos.

Steinway sent Richard Wagner a very grand piano in 1876. You can hear Liszt, Annees De Pelerinage, played on it in a modern recording here: http://www.instantencore.com/music/details.aspx?PId=5100923.

Ibach's c1885 catalogue quotes letters from Brahms, Liszt and Wagner and illustrates the "Richard Wagner" model.
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2081498 - 05/12/13 06:01 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1555
I think of "flat strung" pianos as pre modern..

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#2081504 - 05/12/13 06:08 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Lluís Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/09
Posts: 313
Loc: Barcelona,Spain, European Unio...
The 1820-1855 was the best period of the fortepiano, then it was more and more modernized.
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1855 Pleyel Pianino (Restoring -> www.pleyelrestoration.blogspot.com )

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#2081533 - 05/12/13 07:12 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: jim ialeggio]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9398
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
Originally Posted By: Rich Galassini
The "modern piano" evolved in two ways. First, the action definitely improved. Repetition and balance opened the palatte that a musician could use to achieve their art.

Its hard look at previous ways of doing things without looking at it from a modern bias. Improved is a relative term, in my opinion...maybe different would be a better term.


Yes, I see what you are saying Jim. I can go with that. By the same token there were specific goals in some of the action changes and some things that changed as a side effect. For instance, changes in hammer design effected the total weight of the piano action to the player.

Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
If you look at some of the repertoire for earlier pianos, for example Schubert, and look at the nature of the compositions, one can easily see how pre-Erard actions made huge sense. For instance, in Schubert, the cascades of arpeggios...though Schubert is earlier than the Victorian aesthetic the OP might be talking about...
Hammer mass tiny in relation to modern hammers, inertia extremely, extremely low by modern standards. Because of the tiny dip & minisucle inertia, very little finger movement is required to create the arpeggio. Instead, the arpeggio is rolled...the wrist is rolled, the fingers do not need to individually fully extend into each note of the arpeggio. The technique is easier and more sustainable for ordinary mortals, and lends itself to faster tempos than the modern setup will allow. Relatively speaking,the technique is more of a gross motor skill (rolling wrist) rather than a fine motor skill(individually extended and retracted fingers).


Again, interesting point. It makes me think - a guitarist voices his chords differently than a pianist does because of the nature of his instrument.

This makes me wonder how differently Schubert would have written if he had had access to an instrument built in the 1870's. Would he have written those arpeggios at all or would he have found a different way to express his musical ideas?

Good to chat, Jim. smile
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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#2081543 - 05/12/13 07:39 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
So when did the first metal plates come out? I read that the wooden ones could get destroyed in one concert...

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#2081553 - 05/12/13 07:49 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Mark...]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9398
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: Mark...
So when did the first metal plates come out? I read that the wooden ones could get destroyed in one concert...


Partial struts, sometimes called "resistance bars" were used in early pianos in the 1820's, but Chickering used the first iron frame in the 1840's.

Getting destroyed in one concert had little to do with having iron in the frame or not Mark. The iron struts and later full frames offered stability during changes in humidity and during heavy play. They might go out of tune in the middle of a performance, but this didn't cause them to be destroyed.

However, some of the actions had simpler designs and when a player wanted more out of an instrument than it could give, occasionally shanks broke - and even early jacks.
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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#2081655 - 05/13/13 01:27 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2411
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
I do think that a modern contemporary piano should be capable of producing a good facsimile of the composers intent for all of the eras of piano literature. I have never felt comfortable with the limits placed on a particular piano as a "good Beethoven or Rachmaninoff, etc piano". I have found it possible to configure the details of the modern piano design in such a way, (hybrid wire scaling and other things) so as to meet the broadest requirements of all the musical genres expected to be applied to a piano. You do not need to sacrifice the rich American bass tone sound to produce the clarity needed for arpeggiated counterpoint. With the proper string design and hammers, you can hear the low Beethoven chords clearly and still get the ringing bells of the Russian works. You can get the subtle colors of impressionism and the articulation of Scarlatti and Mozart. You just have to combine all of the elements in a balanced way. There are "Feedback Loops" that can be employed to determine the exact specifications for the components of a given scale design.

This doesn't mean that all pianos will be exactly the same from these methods-but rather pianos so constructed will allow most skilled pianists to rapidly divine how to communicate their version of a composers musical intent.

Now if you only want to rip up the house with some honkey-tonk dance jive-(which I certainly also enjoy)-the specification tolerances are wider and looser.
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#2081750 - 05/13/13 07:52 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Lluís Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/09
Posts: 313
Loc: Barcelona,Spain, European Unio...
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
I do think that a modern contemporary piano should be capable of producing a good facsimile of the composers intent for all of the eras of piano literature.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlfEbbbr5vw

How to reproduce that color in a Steinway?!?
_________________________
1942 Challen Baby Grand Piano

1855 Pleyel Pianino (Restoring -> www.pleyelrestoration.blogspot.com )

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#2081773 - 05/13/13 08:56 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9398
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
I do think that a modern contemporary piano should be capable of producing a good facsimile of the composers intent for all of the eras of piano literature.


I can agree with your statement, but only in the way that a movie is a "good facsimile" of a live staged performance.

Please let me know if I am misunderstanding you.

Yours,
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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#2081782 - 05/13/13 09:26 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2411
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
My use of the term "good facsimile" would include every musically satisfying performance of a composers work no matter what the instrument.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2081785 - 05/13/13 09:37 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Originally Posted By: Withindale
People refer to some pianos produced at the end of the 19c as "late romantic". How did the development of the modern piano affect the performance and sound of piano music during the 20c?

I am unfamiliar with pianos referenced as "late romantic." The terminology I am most familiar with is "modern."

I keep reading, and re-reading this thread and remain confused if we are talking about the development of the piano, at the tail end of the 19th century, or is it in reference to the category of music? A composer, such as Rachmaninoff, is certainly a "Romantic" composer and knew the "modern" piano. However, he would most certainly have known and understood the previous types of instruments. Would he prefer a Tchaikovsky concerto on an earlier instrument? It becomes a great topic for discussion and conjecture.

We have gone through, and are still in, a time of scholarship concerning "period" instrument performance. It is a fascinating and rewarding study.

As a thought to ponder, I wonder how the Prokofiev "Classical Symphony" would sound with a chamber orchestra being performed on period instruments. The juxtaposition is an interesting concept.
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Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2081789 - 05/13/13 09:43 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9398
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
My use of the term "good facsimile" would include every musically satisfying performance of a composers work no matter what the instrument.


Being "musically satisfying" has everything to do with perspective, Ed. Just because I personally feel that today's opera singers perform Montiverdi in a "musically satisfying" way does not mean that Monteverdi would think so.

I assumed the OP was referring to "pre-modern" pianos, Ed.

What you are saying is not making sense to me when applied to these beasts, unless you have some magical dust out there in Seattle. If so, please send me some. smile
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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#2081812 - 05/13/13 10:14 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Rich Galassini]
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 2089
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: Rich Galassini
I assumed the OP was referring to "pre-modern" pianos, Ed

To be specific I was thinking about pianos that made their appearance around 1875 to 1885 and then continued in production into the early 20c.

As it happens there are some recordings available from that era so it's possible to contrast their sounds and styles of performances with recent ones.

I'll elaborate on the term "late romantic" later.
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2081813 - 05/13/13 10:16 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Lluís]
Rotom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/24/10
Posts: 1670
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
I do think that a modern contemporary piano should be capable of producing a good facsimile of the composers intent for all of the eras of piano literature.


Respectfully disagreeing, I do not think it is not possible. I have not heard a single piano modern piano remotely sounding like a fortepiano, or wooden framed mid 1800's piano, and not expecting to find one to do so, unless it's a replica.

Originally Posted By: Lluís

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlfEbbbr5vw

How to reproduce that color in a Steinway?!?


Simply put, it's not possible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiPiGCE4s5s

Piano solo starts at 3'23". The whole concerto is available for listening on youtube.


Edited by Rotom (05/13/13 10:17 AM)

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#2081824 - 05/13/13 10:32 AM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Rich Galassini]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2411
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
I don't think people have changed in their ability to sense and respond to musically intelligible sound in many thousands if not a million of years. The emotions we seek to represent with musical means have always been with us. The pretension that composers, performers and instrument makers of a century or two ago had significantly different musical aims just makes no sense. They did the best with what they could put into their hands to make interesting, satisfying music.

The fact that many musicians find many contemporary instruments weak in their ability to satisfy their musical demands is an inditement of instrument makers. Makers should be responsive to the market and seek out the best practices-and many are not doing that. They view their competition as what other makers of new instruments are doing. They do not understand some of the best practices that were more widely employed in the past and how they worked to produce an instrument with broad musical utility.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2081874 - 05/13/13 12:06 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Steve Chandler Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2789
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
I don't think people have changed in their ability to sense and respond to musically intelligible sound in many thousands if not a million of years. The emotions we seek to represent with musical means have always been with us. The pretension that composers, performers and instrument makers of a century or two ago had significantly different musical aims just makes no sense. They did the best with what they could put into their hands to make interesting, satisfying music.

The fact that many musicians find many contemporary instruments weak in their ability to satisfy their musical demands is an inditement of instrument makers. Makers should be responsive to the market and seek out the best practices-and many are not doing that. They view their competition as what other makers of new instruments are doing. They do not understand some of the best practices that were more widely employed in the past and how they worked to produce an instrument with broad musical utility.

People may not have changed much but the piano certainly has. Every modern piano has a very different sound from a Forte Piano, whether that be the sound of leather vs. felt hammers, the ability of a modern piano to sustain a note far longer than a Forte Piano and the fact that a modern piano can play much louder than a Forte Piano makes a performance of music composed for a Forte Piano (all of Beethoven) but performed on a modern piano a compromise. A perfect example is the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven wrote senza sordino (without mutes). On a modern piano that ends up being either very slow or harmonic mush as the notes sustain far longer than they would have in Beethoven's day. In LvB's time the harmony would have shifted gently from measure to measure, we have to very briefly kill the sound when the harmony changes to avoid harmonic mush. The result is we play as best we can with what we have but it doesn't sound like it did to Beethoven's ear (when he could hear). If you reduce the sustain of a modern instrument then fans of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky (and many others) will be unhappy.

I'd be curious to hear what an instrument of broad musical utility would sound like. Would the term Jack of all trades, master of none, be appropriate here? Of course you could achieve almost exactly what you want with a digital piano!

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#2081878 - 05/13/13 12:14 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Rotom]
fcar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/11
Posts: 53
Loc: GA, USA
Rotom, thank you for that link. I think it gave me some insight into what is being discussed here. I listened to it and then to Rubenstein playing the same piece and was totally surprised that I liked the "old piano" much more; it just sounded so much purer-probably a poor descriptor-in sound.

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#2081911 - 05/13/13 01:17 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Lluís Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/09
Posts: 313
Loc: Barcelona,Spain, European Unio...
Another one, this time a Pleyel fortepiano with hammers covered with rabbit hair felt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxPo0E7zgwA
_________________________
1942 Challen Baby Grand Piano

1855 Pleyel Pianino (Restoring -> www.pleyelrestoration.blogspot.com )

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#2081998 - 05/13/13 04:44 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1555
the bass notes sound interesting ....like an upright bass! smile

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#2082020 - 05/13/13 05:39 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
BerndAB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/10
Posts: 545
Loc: Germany
For me there are four phases of pianofortes..

1st – An instrument starting at Critstofori’s in Florence until the early Graf and Streicher times in Vienna and the “Seven (germnan-educated) Apostels” in London... An instrument like this is for the pre-classical period and has – mostly because of it’s lmited tonal range – too much limits to be the sole instrument.

2nd – An instrument of the Mozart and Beethoven period. This may be 2a – a southern german instrument (vienna mechanics) or 2b - an early english jack mechanic. The former 2a pleasant to play if in good mechanical state, the 2b type of more power, and both lacking the “quite normal” range, so causing some problems to play Beethoven’s later sonatas…

3rd – the real romantic piano, also 3a type – viennoise mechanic, good old Bosendorfer concert grands 240 cm looong, and 3b english – double repetitive mechanism from the 1821 Erard patent and derivates. Erard and Pleyel Concert grands, maybe Gaveau and Broadwood and Boisselot grands also.

French pianos of the first half of the 19th century..

Sufficcient tonal range, BUT a lot of efforts to keep the instrument playable…

4rd – the Steinway type of instruments, starting at the parisian world exhibition in the 1860ies, starting the worldwide success of the “systéme americaine” (i.e. one-piece cast harp) , relaying on an eight years’ period of experiene in once-poiece-casts harps starting in 1859. and MAX POWER, to cut through 120-men orchestras at Carnegie hall..

= = =

My deep recommendation for the ultimate rich romantic piano lover’s purposes:

Look for an instrument of type 3b…. a “medium age” Erard or Pleyel concert grand of the “Chopin in Paris” period – 1830 to 1849.

Sufficient tonal range, straight-strung.. and THE VERY BEST EVER built hammers in 300 years of piano making.

Hammers from the Henri Hertz patents, up to 9 (NINE!!!!) layers of leather, hard and soft ones, fur (hard and sonft ones, especially rabbit fur).. and felt (hard and soft ones).

These pianos have two significant disadvantages: 1- they are hard to restore because they mostly don’t own a single-note-mechanism, if there is something to work at one repetition, you’ll disassemble five or eight of th repetitions, and have to reassemble them thoroughly.. , and to get the same old ancient transient immaterial gloryfiying fur hammer characteristic with this incredible tonal palette will be a game of high costs in every respect, and of – maybe – mostly bad luck.

And they will not cause maximum power.. they cannot make sufficient power for Carnegie Hall.

But if you meet good luck – it will be Heaven on Earth for your ears..

And – boyz.. who owns Carnegie Hall as his Holy Home for piano playing purposes pivately?!?!?!?

Nobody. So a Pleyel concert grand of a Non-Steinway-Non-Max-Power-tone will do best.

IF… …if you manage to ge the REAL hammers. And maybe the real strings of that time. Because also steel materials changed, referring to the industrial development.

There are no pianos like the real romantic pianos of Monsieur Fredric Chopin.

In His Time, the sole disadvantage: no max power. So, earn a Pleyel grand. 1830 to 1850, and make it playable like Frederic Chopin would have loved it.

THE ultimate piano of all times (for me) is a Pleyel concert grand built 1842 which was in the personal possession of Frederic Chopin. This piano is situated half way from Calais to London in south east England, near Hurstwood Farm. HF, manufacturer of fine pianos, may point you to the Holy Location. Even if I only heard this piano on YouTube, the sound of this very instrument made me weep - in heaven's luck.

I deeply know - even if I own a concert grand D size - that I once bought the "false" piano.. ;-) But I did a lot to rectify this..

The black dragon now wears lighter hammers of original type - the three year old (quite new, modern-D-type...) hammers got extracted, and a set of super old Steinway hammers (80 to 100 yrs old, the bearings remanufactured) of the grey wool type got installed. Hammers which were thrown away in New York City, Rikers Plant.. And were sold ion ebay.com.. I Bouthg them.

The re installation is three days old..

And it is - near - to heaven. Light hammers, much better control also in the piano and pianissimo, and I am not so very sure that nine-layer-hammers (with the omineuse Henri Hertz rabbit fur..) would do better.

And I still have the advantage of these super long incredibly well sounding bass strings.

So, conclusion: there might be also chances to get a romantic piano from the "phase 4" pianos of the Steinway type - if you may omit the MAX POWER demand, and if you invest in a set of lighter hammers of fine material and maybe - last effort for me - in a good needling job to get these hammers in the right grade of softness and to get this "Chopin souplesse"..

All and everything has to go light and fine.. Then and ONLY THEN youl'll get a real romantic piano..

MY two european french (and new York-grey-felt...) cents..
_________________________
Pls excuse any bad english.

D 1877 satin black plain

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#2082029 - 05/13/13 06:03 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Rotom]
BerndAB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/10
Posts: 545
Loc: Germany
Originally Posted By: Rotom
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
I do think that a modern contemporary piano should be capable of producing a good facsimile of the composers intent for all of the eras of piano literature.


Respectfully disagreeing, I do not think it is not possible. I have not heard a single piano modern piano remotely sounding like a fortepiano, or wooden framed mid 1800's piano, and not expecting to find one to do so, unless it's a replica.


It may depend if this woooden sound would be thought as belonging-to-the -music - vs. distracting..

In my hearing the wooden sound characteristic got lost in the "felt phase" (Henri Hertz) in the 1830ies and 1840ies.

I personally like the "chock chock" sound which remembers to the fortepianos of the years 1750 to 1820.. but I could also hear Chopin's music without this wooden special sound (which I think as being additive..).

The woooden sound part can IMHO NOT be reproduced by a modern piano, only if one would change the hammer heads (and maybe - I don't know exactly) the strings also.
_________________________
Pls excuse any bad english.

D 1877 satin black plain

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#2082034 - 05/13/13 06:11 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Lluís Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/09
Posts: 313
Loc: Barcelona,Spain, European Unio...
Mr Olivier Fadini is very near the original Pleyel sonority due a very acurate study of the original piano hammers of Giacomo Rossini, I'm working with him and other people to reach the "Feutre Pape" used in Pleyels of F Chopin period, and the results are amazing. We tested this particular sonority in some concerts in small rooms and people loves it. Its another world compared to the tipical hard leather hammers.
_________________________
1942 Challen Baby Grand Piano

1855 Pleyel Pianino (Restoring -> www.pleyelrestoration.blogspot.com )

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#2082047 - 05/13/13 06:49 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Steve Chandler]
Ed Foote Online   blank
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1241
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler

A perfect example is the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven wrote senza sordino (without mutes). On a modern piano that ends up being either very slow or harmonic mush as the notes sustain far longer than they would have in Beethoven's day. In LvB's time the harmony would have shifted gently from measure to measure, we have to very briefly kill the sound when the harmony changes to avoid harmonic mush


Greetings,
I must disagree. I suggest that you consider temperament as a factor in clarity. I have found equal temperament, with every third dissonant, to be the culprit. The Moonlight Sonata is on our "Beethoven in the Temperaments" CD, which is out of stock and will not be available until I can get it on CD Baby, (where does the time go?). Performed on a well-tempered piano, the "mush" disappears and the intervals feed into one another to create a texture unavailable on modern tuning.
The same is true of the "Waldstein". The beginning of the last mvt. calls for nearly 17 measures with the pedal down. In ET, the harmony becomes a blur very quickly. On a UT such as proposed by Thomas Young, the sustain of the modern piano creates a swelling harmony that perfectly complements the melodic line.
I like the pedal down as much as possible, since the more open strings there are, the more resonance is available, (assuming the tuning supports it). When it is time to create the big soundscapes, it is hard to beat the UT's.
Regards,


Edited by Ed Foote (05/13/13 06:51 PM)

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#2082188 - 05/13/13 11:47 PM Re: The Late Romantic Piano v The Modern Piano [Re: Withindale]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2411
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
The biggest problems with most contemporary pianos is that:
The hammers are too hard and heavy,
The action has too much inertia.

All of the pre-modern and early modern pianos had hammers lighter than most contemporary pianos. These heavier hammers simply slow everything down about the way a piano plays and the sound projects. When the hammer weight issue is properly dealt with, contemporary pianos become much more facile in their musical capacity. They become responsive to a pianist control and are able to have their tone shaped in such a way that they are suitable for all piano music. Are they the ideal for the best practices of musical expression? Not all of them-at all. But some can be as perfect as has ever been achieved in history-and a few will set new standards of musical utility.

I think it pretentious to assert that Beethoven's or Chopin's, etc music is not able
to be properly realized on modern instruments that are properly prepared. Beethoven demanded more powerful, projecting, stable and durable pianos. He was writing in the time of the full flower of the hubris of the incipient industrial age and political liberalism of the autonomous creativity of the individual. In fact his music is the "soundtrack" of those movements. Beethoven would have loved to be able to play on pianos like I have in my shop. There is no way to support that statement beyond the affinity the spirit of his music strikes with my own sentiments about the universe and mans place in it-but it is how I feel about music.

The lovely tone of the pianos of Erard, Pleyel, Gaveau etc are the combination of light, soft hammers, softer piano wire, and extremely fine workmanship. The French were the pioneers of fine small pianos. The continuous felt hammer was developed not to make a louder piano, but a better soft piano sound. The early romantic French instruments set the stage for the "systeme Americain".

Every time pianists start to play a composers work, they are making a facsimile of the composers intent. The performer brings the music back to life. It is obvious that the characteristics of the instrument employed will shape how the piece is realized. This is understood by every composer. Composers make their living from people paying to acquire their music, it is absurd to assume that Mozart, for instance, only intended his piano music to be played on Stein pianoforte's.

Composers intend for performers to adapt a work for the context is is being presented in. Many first performances of works are modified during performance to better realize the musical intent. Liszt and Chopin were well known to rewrite their work for a specific performance. Pianists often play the same piece differently on different pianos. They adjust the piece to work better in the present context.

What we should not loose from modern musical practice is to seek to produce pianos with the widest range of musically intelligible capacity. Pianos with the most flexible range of expression is the goal-and always has been.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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